A well-designed operating model is the bridge that allows a company to enable a fully joined-up holistic customer experience and turn its CX strategy into results. In my work I help to clarify where and how critical customer support work gets done in an organization, across digital and physical interactions.
The largest impediment to desirable customer experience is too often a ‘silo mentality’ driven by a siloed organisational structure and siloed business objectives . People are naturally focused on their own department, their own problems, their own job and their own status and usually do not think holistically beyond their role and unit. This in turn results in a poor disjointed customer experience, especially when switching between channels (webchat, phone support, e-mail, letter) or between various processes (think how many customer facing processes an average high street bank imposes on its customers). This is where customer experience design, user experience design and service design combined help to cohesively and consistently bridge the silos by focussing on the human – the end customer or end-user and their end to end seamless journey across touch-points, channels and devices.
User Experience, Web-chat support
User Experience (UX) design is designing for a specific customer touch point — when a customer needs something from your product or service. A touch point is not a channel (like ‘website’ or ‘call centre’). It is a moment when your customer interacts with you organisation and you deliberately and thoughtfully design for that interaction to enable an excellent experience. When designing a web based customer support chats one needs to follow number of best practices or, how I like to refer to them, design principles to avoid user experience pitfalls with web based chats. Make it easily discoverable on your website or on the customer dashboard.
The user needs to see the chat as an opportunity for a more convenient, less time consuming, and more effective feature of the service support. This is not just an added value for your millennial customers who are keen on using webchat as a preferred channel of interaction. The recent data on most popular contact centre channels shows that millennials (born after 1980) display a strong preference toward chat and social media in their interactions with companies over email, apps or phone. Chats can also boost customer service productivity. According to chat SaaS provider Giosg, chats enable single human customer service agent to simultaneously attend to 3 – 8 customers at once – a staggering feature of multitasking! Source:
Web chat offers to your customer ability to ask questions, raise concerns or issues while doing something else whether at home or at work. It enables customer to multitask while interacting with your service. Nevertheless it needs to retain a human touch (some really good inspiring examples coming from Monzo or Apple support). There is nothing worse than initiating a webchat to then experience a conversation with a robot that uses predefined templates and does not adjust the tone of the language to the individual customer emotions. As long as your organisation does not have perfectly functioning AI, the best is to disclose the use of an AI solution from the start rather than pretending a human support. If you can’t hold a free form conversation, suggest topics and themes that can be used as an aid to discovering the opportunities of interaction.
Manage your customer expectations: What can be resolved, how long will it take? Is the conversion going to be similar to a continuous phone conversation or do you expect multitasking gaps in the middle? What will chat agent know about me?
Finally, Consistency is a classic usability principle that has too often been neglected with chats. Ensure smooth switching between channels without requiring customer to go through extra steps or to repeat their story. I’ve seen chat windows disappear and customer servants change in mid-flight (Adobe, RyanAir). Whether the user has to be forwarded to a different channel or next tier support needs to be clearly communicated and managed to enable a joined-up consistent experience. Recently I had a chance to raise an issue with Apple support through a webchat. I was pleased, to say the least, by the quality of conversation, smooth transition to the phone and then how easily my case was handled my an associate in the Apple store – one consistent joined-up journey across webchat, phone support and in-store experience. A benchmark for others to follow.
Customer Experience Design
This is where customer experience (CX) design helps to optimize the entire end-to-end customer journey to achieve an outcome via your product or service. Customers come from somewhere, they go through a series of interactions and finish with their needs met. CX is designing for all those micro needs no matter what the touch-point and stitching it together to create a cohesive, consistent, join-up and positive experience. It is an overarching strategic approach across touch-points.
Consequently service design supports the customer journey and the interaction touch points by deliberately and thoughtfully designing all the ‘ below the water’ organisational elements and operational processes and systems to serve the customer. This ensures customers are never stuck in transition across departments in the organisation. A well designed organisational model ensures a customer never knows they’re being handed from one part of the organisation to another.
As far as I am concerned, the experience I would have on a hotel website should completely match my subsequent phone conversation with a front-desk team, and the experience while staying at the hotel. It should match the check-in desk experience, the in-room dining, the checkout experience, any complaints, questions etc.. Similarly when a customer purchases various products or services from the same brand they expect the same level of experience and similar quality of interactions. Yet still a lot of companies offer different platforms, websites, apps for various products or services – offering a different, and often disjointed experience. Often although internal shared services departments support all of these offerings they may have different processes to follow to handle customer support, complaints or even sales process.
Organizational (re)design is an integral part of any service design project. It involves zooming into ‘below the water’ of the customer experience we are aiming to deliver and integrating structure, processes, and people to support a product or a service; whether an internal delivered through a shared services organisation or a consumer facing one. It comprises the processes that people follow, the management of individual performance, the recruitment of talent, and the development of employees’ skills. This design process often requires a project team made of senior business leaders, HR function, change management and analysts. When the organizational (re)design of a company matches its strategic intentions, everyone will be primed to execute and deliver them. The company’s structure, processes, and people will all support the most important outcomes and channel the organization’s efforts enabling a fully joined-up and fully supported holistic customer experience.